A leading Irish priest has praised Prime Minister Enda Kenny for his stand on the abortion issue – at a time when church leaders have slammed the Fine Gael leader.

Connemara priest and author Fr Pádraig Standún made his comments at a book launch in Galway of Liam O’Flaherty’s The House of Gold, more than 80 years after it was banned by the Irish state.

Fr Standún publicly paid tribute to Kenny for his stance on the abortion legislation according to a report in the Irish Times.

He told the launch: “The criticism levelled by the Catholic hierarchy at Mr Kenny and his Government over the legislation is a classic confrontation between the idealist and the realist.

“This week’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll proved that the Government has got it right in reflecting the views of the public on the issue.

“I admire Mr Kenny’s assertion in the Dáil that he is a public representative who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach (PM).”

The Connemara based cleric added: “This is a contrast to the days when politicians were Catholic ministers and not ministers who happen to be Catholic.”

The report adds in reference to the writings of O’Flaherty, Fr Standún said there were many areas in which the established church and socialism had much in common.

He said: “O’Flaherty sought to expose injustice, and it is this type of injustice that has led to the more radical liberation theology in South America that has in turn produced the new pope.”

The paper adds that the Catholic Church’s support for an ‘oppressive native gombeen ascendancy’ in the new republic had been the focus of O’Flaherty’s criticism in works like The House of Gold, published in 1929.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny approved a gay marriage referendum at the Cabinet meeting on TuesdayGoogle Images